I’ve been introducing E to the delights of autumn – namely, kicking autumn leaves, conkers and fruit crumbles. (My other favourite things of autumn – black roll necks, knee high boots and the first glass of red wine for a while – will have to wait for a few years.) She’s not quite at the kicking leaves stage yet as she’s not confident in taking her feet off the ground too far but she very much enjoyed the noise the leaves made when she walked through them the other day. And she found them flying in the air when I kicked them very funny indeed.
The Guardian ran an article at the weekend in praise of bringing up children in a city and I was so glad to read it. I love living in a city and wouldn’t want to move somewhere less urban. We have so much easy to reach support here – a range of playgroups and services when I was on maternity leave, a good choice of nursery within walking distance of home, a lot of different places to go, people to see, things to do. And many of them are child friendly. The article’s author spoke about how many of her friends moved to the country for the sake of their children but she wasn’t convinced this was right for her.
S’s parents live in the country. They have a lovely house and are very active in the community but you have to drive everywhere. Even to the local children’s playground.
I think we have very fixed and often mistaken ideas of what it’s like growing up in the city and the country. The fetishisation of country living is a modern phenomenon, all talk of mushroom picking and fields of freedom when in reality it appears very different. And the media stories about city-born children not knowing that milk comes from cows continue the myth.
E’s experience of the city already includes so many things: eating out and exploring in cafes and museums and cinemas and delis; wide open parks full of birds, deer and trees; so many different people from all walks of life, with different experiences and circumstances; libraries and bookshops full of books for her to read; it includes getting to places on foot or by public transport. How can this be bad for her? None of those things would be as easy or as diverse if we lived in the countryside. No amount of mushroom picking makes up for having a broad experience.
I realise people feel the countryside is safer. Somehow though, I’m more concerned about the possibility of her getting run over by someone driving down a country road too fast near her grandparents house than I am by the fact that someone threw a gun in our local pond last year after shooting someone with it. Danger is everywhere.
The article talked about having the confidence to bring your child up in the city. To shout down people who ask about crime, about the inner city schools, to raise your child to deal with the challenges of urban living. I hope we can do that.
Already E is being schooled. I noticed this weekend that she is more confident walking indoors than outside. I wonder if this is partly because she likes to notice so much when we’re out. She’s already taking after her father and is a right birdwatcher, noticing them flying overhead and she recognises calls and looks about for the birds. She’s fascinated with crows, I think as they’re quite tame and just hop about as she tries to follow them rather than flying away. But frankly any bird will do.
I hope I can raise E to handle the challenge of living where we do. Of course, one reason we don’t move is that we can’t afford to. But I don’t want her to think we’re forced to stay here. I like it. I think she will too.